Lay Understanding of Illness Probability Distributions

AbstractOur central question is: how accurate are laypeople’s statistical intuitions about probability distributions within the domain of health? Specifically, can participants produce entire probability distributions for the duration of illnesses? While a large body of decision making research has suggested that people use a flawed process to arrive at decisions, we posit that participants may be using an optimal process, but with flawed information. To this end, we assess accuracy in terms of both the mean and form of distributions for both acute illnesses for which people might have experience, and chronic conditions for which people are less likely to have experience. We find that participants can accurately estimate the mean and form of distributions for acute illnesses.

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